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Quote of the Week
“If a fire of the magnitude of the Lost Creek fire of 2003 were to happen now, it would be hard to bring resources to it.”
- Tully Clifford  


John Kinnear photo
Old tractor seat made into marker using drilled holes.
Inscription reads: “Mrs. Joe Hayden left us - Aug. 6, 1936 - Oh how me miss her.
Looking Back - John Kinnear No doubt this last May long weekend there were many from the Crowsnest Pass that headed for the States. Probably to get away from the miserable weather here and to take advantage of our strong dollar.
Most passed through the quaint little border crossing of Roosville where humourless border guards awaited them. Every border crossing has a unique history and Roosville has a doozy, including how it got its name.
 It was Doctor Seuss that put the Who in Whoville but it was Fred Roo Sr. that put the Roo in Roosville. You probably have never heard of Fred, but he was an amazing Tobacco Plains pioneer who started a family with roots that have now spread out all across Western Canada.
Story 1
John Kinnear photo
Explorer Michael Phillips' marker
On the August long weekend in 2003 this marvelous family tree contracted back to its source in a heart-warming celebration out at the Grasmere community hall. Descendants of the original Roo’s and it’s strongest branch, the Fredrickson’s, renewed acquaintances, filled in branch details for dedicated volunteers and in general celebrated their rich and diverse family legacy.
The posted family trees of Roo and Fredrickson were an intricate marvel to behold with Fred and Mary Roo at one side being married in 1886 and a great great great grandson, Ashton Craig Kennedy, born in 2000 on the other.
When I asked the gang there about Fred Roo and Joe Fredrickson I got an earful and eventually found my way to a family plot at the Tobacco Plains Cemetery in Roosville. The cemetery sits on a hillside just a few yards from the Canada Customs building on that Canada/US border crossing. There I found an almost eclectic assortment of markers that included one that was a miniature plow with a small nameplate on it and another that was a cross made of welded chains. It is the resting-place of such notables as Michael and Rowena Phillips and of course Fred and Mary Roo.
You remember Michael Phillips don’t yah? Discoverer of the Crows Nest Pass (west to east) in 1873.  Well Michael had a ranch at the border with a store called “Phillips’ Trading Post.” That’s where it all started for Fred Roo. He bought out Phillips and built his own store and post office which he called Roosville! Eventually he built other stores in Elko and Flagstone (an old whistle stop on the Great Northern Railroad west of Elko) and named them “Roosville Cash Stores.” They were your classic little of everything stores with groceries, clothing and hardware and a sign that boasted:”Everything is fresh but the salt.”
Fred Roo was a remarkable character who emigrated from Leeds England and worked his way across Canada building a family of eight as he went.
When Fred saw the Elko area he was hooked and knew it was where he wanted to make his home. Fred wove his way into the very fabric of the Elko/South Country area and was a tireless promoter of this special piece of country.  He never failed to point it out with such pronouncements as “Elko, the summer resort of the South East Kootenay.”
Fred became fluent in the Ktunaxa (Kootenay Indian) language and was revered and respected by the Tobacco Plains Indians who christened him “Jim Thistlebeak” and there in lies a story. Fred believed keenly in advertising and promoting the area and used every opportunity to write about it in papers in Cranbrook, Nelson and Fernie. For a time he had a special place in the Fernie Free Press called “Elko Notes” where he delivered an always-entertaining mix of poetry, social clips and comical observations. They were written in a style that leaves this humble scribe wishing we could deliver more of the same to the public today.
Each week’s notes carried one or two profundities from his “nom de plume” Thistlebeak. I thought it might be fun to look back at a few of the Rooism’s that made this man such an entertaining guy.
May 10, 1918 issue:”Mabel was just home from college” says Jim Thistlebeak. “Will you”, she said to her mother, “Pass me my diminutive argentous truncated cone convex on its summit and semi-perforated with symmetrical indentations?” The poor girl was asking for a thimble!
April 8, 1918:”Jim Thistlebeak says a woman simply has to love something, even if it is nothing but a man.”  Ouch!
The following paragraph from the August 9th, 1918 Elko Notes is typical of Fred’s never-ending segways into promoting the area:” If Andrew Carnegie would switch his system from libraries to tourist hotels, Jim Thistlebeak would write to him about Elko, where the tourists leave the Great Northern and CPR trains for the fascinating sights of the imperishable, romantic and lofty mountain peaks, beautiful drives, trout in every stream, birds on every tree, deer in the hills thicker than hair on a Vancouver Island collie, and scenery that drives artists mad with joy. It is where Fred Roo lives.”
Story 2
John Kinnear photo
Chain Cross at Roosville Cemetery
Also in that August issue I found this nifty remark: ”It was Miss Anne Murray (one of the most popular young ladies that ever answered a telephone call) who is second in command of the Elko rural telephone office, that told a Calgary traveler that a kiss over the phone was like a straw hat. (It surely wasn’t felt, Annie.)”
Fred Roo Sr. carried on writing, advertising and running his Elko store and hotel until he died of a heart attack on July 12, 1920. His legacy of family lives on in places like Dawson Creek, Strathmore, Vancouver and throughout the South Country.
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